In the NHL, we typically call July “cottage season.” After the free agency frenzy of July 1, players and executives get lost for a few weeks, retreating to summer homes and vacation spots across the world (though if it’s in Canada, that home is almost always called a cottage).
Nothing is typical about 2021. The Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup on July 7. The buyout window opened on July 8. Protection lists for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft were due over the weekend. On Wednesday, we’ll have the expansion draft, and the entry draft is Friday and Saturday. Then on July 28, free agency begins.
“Craziest three-week stretch I remember in my time in the league,” one front office executive told me last week. He has nearly two decades of experience.
I worked the phones over the past few days to get some buzz on what to expect this coming week, and beyond.
Kraken honing in on a netminder?
The Kraken will need at least two goalies, and it seems they have settled on one: Chris Driedger of the Florida Panthers. In fact, word is Driedger should be signing a multi-year deal after being the selection from the Panthers; I’ve heard it’s in the three-year range.
There are some great, young, budget-conscious options for Seattle to choose if Driedger is goalie 1A. I texted an NHL goalie coach on Sunday to find out whom he would choose as the backup to Driedger. His answer: Kaapo Kahkonen of the Minnesota Wild or Vitek Vanecek from the Washington Capitals.
Let’s make a deal
The Kraken haven’t tipped their hand much, but behind the scenes they have been playing hardball the last few weeks from what I’ve heard. If a team wanted assurance that one of their unprotected players wouldn’t be selected, Seattle’s initial asking price was a first-round pick as compensation, at minimum. I do believe some side deals were made.
The Kraken are also expected to flip some of their expansion picks immediately after being selected — just as the Vegas Golden Knights did — so expect them to stay busy.
Former Golden Knights general manager George McPhee discusses how other NHL teams might handle the upcoming Seattle Kraken expansion draft.
Who’s heading to Seattle?
I canvassed one veteran player, one prominent agent, one assistant coach and one front office executive on Sunday after the protection lists came out, and asked: Who are the most obvious pickups for the Kraken? The two most common answers were Yanni Gourde (Lightning) and Max Domi (Blue Jackets).
Domi is coming off a rough season and had shoulder surgery in June, which should sideline him until at least November. But he’s a former 70-point score on an expiring deal — making him a good player to flip at the trade deadline.
As for Gourde? The Lightning left the Kraken plenty of valuable players, thanks to their cap crunch, but Gourde is a gritty, do-everything center around whom a team can build a line.
Two blueliners that could be fits
“Both those guys are on good deals,” the player said. “De Haan has been rumored to the Kraken for a while. Dillon played junior hockey in Seattle [the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds], so I bet they’ll want some guys with local connections.”
Top of the draft coming into focus
“I’d be just as stunned if Matty Beniers doesn’t go to Seattle [at No. 2],” one scout told me last week.
When I talked to the Massachusetts-born Beniers last week, he told me he idolized Patrice Bergeron and models his game after him. “Watching him pretty much my whole life, that’s a guy I’ve always admired,” Beniers said. “So I’ve tried to make myself into that type of player, a responsible two-way player with skills to make plays, but also has a really strong hockey IQ.”
Beniers is often noted for his high motor, too. The scout told me he thought Beniers would go No. 2 because of his talent, but also because it will be harder for Seattle to find centers later in the draft.
How high will Klimovich go?
A sleeper pick in this year’s draft: Danila Klimovich, from Belarus, who could sneak into the first round. Like Yegor Sharangovich (No. 141 overall to the Devils in 2018) Klimovich burst onto the scene late, in part because of lower exposure being from Belarus.
Klimovich didn’t have a chance to play in North America until this year’s IIHF under-18 world championships in Texas — and what an impression he made.
“At the same time the U.S. and Finland were playing, every GM cleared the nice rink in Dallas and went to the s—ty one where the Belarusians were playing,” one person who attended the tournament said. “Because Klimovich was so good, they had to see him for themselves.”
The center scored six goals in five games that tournament.
Wait, Ovi is on the available list?
Ovechkin’s unprotected status is only a formality. Most people in the league believe there’s a handshake deal or at least a framework of a new deal in place between the Caps and their captain, which should be announced after the expansion draft.
Hughes family reunion
In May, I was told: “If Luke Hughes is there for them, the Devils or the Canucks will have a hard time not taking him.”
It’s tough to imagine Luke Hughes falling to No. 9 at this point. Most people I’ve talked to think New Jersey will end up selecting the youngest Hughes brother. If the Devils don’t go Hughes, the other player they seem to be hot on is Swedish defenseman Simon Edvinsson.
A goalie in the top 10?
There are teams in the top 10 of the draft thinking about selecting goalie Jesper Wallstedt. I was impressed by Wallstedt’s maturity when I spoke to him on the phone last week. He grew up idolizing Henrik Lundqvist, and even went to Lundqvist’s goalie camps as a kid.
Drafting a goalie in the first round hasn’t seemed so risky or rare the last three years. Florida feels great about selecting Spencer Knight at No. 13 in 2019, and Nashville selected Yaroslav Askarov at No. 11 last year, who was viewed as an exceptional talent.
Wallstedt isn’t the only goalie projected to be taken in the first round this year; Sebastian Cossa is the other. I also loved talking to him, and enjoyed learning that he played football for five years as a center and a linebacker. Rarely do you see a football/hockey crossover athlete.
There are some teams that view Cossa ahead of Wallstedt, so it will be intriguing to see where both end up.
Chicago looking for goaltending
Even though they picked a goalie in the second round last year (Drew Commesso) it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Blackhawks draft another goalie, this time in the first round.
I also was told the Blackhawks could be active in free agency for a goalie; there are plenty of veteran options available.
New Jersey ready to spend?
I hear that they are also in the market for a veteran goalie (just like last year, when they signed Corey Crawford, who retired before suiting up in a game for them).
The Anaheim Ducks left Henrique unprotected, after trying to trade the forward last year to no avail. If he is not selected, it sounds like the Ducks will still try to move him this year, but may have to retain some of his $5.85 million salary.
Latest on the Seth Jones trade front
It’s hard to get a sense of when a Seth Jones trade may go down, as Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen isn’t afraid to do the bold move — like hold onto a player who doesn’t want to re-sign, on an expiring contract, to begin the season.
The expectation, however, is that Jones will be moved at some point — though his situation isn’t as untenable as Jack Eichel‘s is in Buffalo or Vladimir Tarasenko‘s is in St. Louis. In both Eichel’s and Tarasenko’s cases, it seems the loss of trust between player and club seem irrevocable.
What to make of the Isles’ decisions
When the protection lists came out and I saw Josh Bailey and Jordan Eberle both available from the Islanders, my first instinct was that GM Lou Lamoriello cut a side deal with Kraken GM Ron Francis. That might be the case, but it was pointed out to me that a theme of the Islanders protection list is cost-cutting, which falls in line with their recent moves shedding the contracts of Andrew Ladd and Nick Leddy.
The Islanders are often the toughest team on which to get information, as Lamoriello runs a tight ship. But we know that getting a new deal for restricted free agents Anthony Beauvillier and (especially) Adam Pelech are priorities for the Islanders. It appears re-signing UFA Casey Cizikas is also high on Lamoriello’s to-do list.
More people watched Seattle NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 than Cubs-Cards on ESPN – Awful Announcing
In the grand scheme of things, 637,000 viewers nationally is not a huge number for a cable channel with any level of significant distribution. Most things on broadcast TV not only beat that, but beat it by quite a bit, and that kind of number isn’t usually even amongst the top cable broadcasts. However, the news that ESPN2 pulled that number in for its (NHL-produced, but featuring ESPN figures) coverage of the NHL expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken Wednesday night was certainly interesting, especially as so much of the actual news around that draft was reported in advance, and also given that their main-network coverage of the MLB game between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals drew fewer viewers. Here’s a comparison of Wednesday night sporting events from John Ourand of Sports Business Journal:
Sports TV of note from Weds:
AEW Dynamite on TNT: 1.148 million viewers
Primetime Oly programming on NBCSN: 773,000
PTI on ESPN: 648,000 viewers
NHL Expansion Draft on ESPN2: 637,000 viewers
Cubs-Cardinals on ESPN: 509,000 viewers
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) July 22, 2021
On the negative side, that draft didn’t even draw the numbers of studio show Pardon The Interruption (however, that airs on ESPN rather than ESPN2; they’re similar in distribution, but many people turn on main ESPN first). It also didn’t draw the numbers of early Olympic programming from NBCSN. On the positive side, it outdrew a national MLB game. And it drew more than the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft five years ago (595,000 on NBCSN for a combined broadcast of that draft and the NHL Awards). And it’s a good sign for ESPN, as this is their first big NHL event they aired under their new deal.
And yes, as Ourand noted in a follow-up tweet, that Cubs-Cards game didn’t have regional sports network blackouts, so Cubs and Cardinals fans could still watch it on their local RSNs. And most probably did, so it likely primarily pulled the national audience that didn’t have those RSNs. But it’s still interesting to see an ESPN2 event outdraw an ESPN event, especially when the ESPN event is a live game and the ESPN2 event is a one-team expansion draft (and one where most of the information was previously available to the public).
If ESPN versus ESPN2 programming decisions were made strictly from a standpoint of what they thought would draw more viewers, this result would go against that. That’s not entirely the case here, as the MLB on ESPN package comes with some restrictions on where games can air. But it’s still interesting to see the NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 outdraw a live MLB game between two prominent teams.
That is also perhaps further evidence that draft “spoilers” don’t always damage the ratings that much. That’s long been a debate, from the NFL’s heavy pushes against pick-tipping to the NBA’s more moderate approach (which sees pick-tipping still happen with some different language, and which hasn’t really led to obvious ratings losses).
In the case of this draft, figures who don’t work for expansion draft rightsholders Sportsnet (Canada) and ESPN (U.S.) reported many of the picks early, with Frank Seravalli (formerly of TSN, now of Daily Faceoff) and Pierre LeBrun (TSN/The Athletic) getting many of those, other national figures getting some more, and local reporters getting some others. So a mostly-full picture was available before the broadcast for those who wanted to find it. But that didn’t stop a significant amount of people from watching this, and that maybe shows that the league pushes against pick-tipping aren’t always that impactful.
[John Ourand on Twitter]
Cleveland changes MLB team nickname to Guardians after months of discussion – CBC.ca
Known as the Indians since 1915, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team will be called Guardians.
The ball club announced the name change Friday with a video on Twitter narrated by actor Tom Hanks, ending months of internal discussions triggered by a national reckoning by institutions and teams to permanently drop logos and names that are considered racist.
Together, we are all… <a href=”https://t.co/R5FnT4kv1I”>pic.twitter.com/R5FnT4kv1I</a>
The choice of Guardians will undoubtedly be criticized by many of the club’s die-hard fans.
The organization spent most of the past year whittling down a list of potential names that was at nearly 1,200 just over a month ago. But the process quickly accelerated and the club landed on Guardians.
Social unrest spurred name change
Team owner Paul Dolan said last summer’s social unrest, touched off by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, spurred his intention to change the name.
Dolan is expected to provide more details on the choice and background on the change at a news conference at Progressive Field before Cleveland hosts the Tampa Bay Rays.
Dolan said the new name mirrors the city and its people.
“Cleveland has and always will be the most important part of our identity,” he said in a statement. “Therefore, we wanted a name that strongly represents the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders. ‘Guardians’ reflects those attributes that define us.”
In 2018, the team stopped wearing the contentious Chief Wahoo logo on their jerseys and caps. However, the team continues to sell merchandise bearing the smiling, red-faced caricature that was protested for decades by Native American groups.
The name change has sparked lively debate among the city’s passionate sports fans. Other names, including the Spiders, which is what the team was once called, were pushed by supporters on social media platforms.
But Guardians does seem to fit the team’s objective to find a name that embodies Cleveland’s ethos while preserving the team’s history and uniting the community.
Not far from the downtown ballpark, there are two large landmark stone edifices — referred to as guardians — on the Hope Memorial Bridge over the Cuyahoga River.
The team’s colours will remain the same, and the new Guardians’ new logos will incorporate some of the architectural features of the bridge.
The change comes as the Washington Football Team continues to work toward a similar makeover. The franchise dropped its name before the 2020 season and said it will reveal a new name and logo in 2022.
LIVE BLOG: Opening ceremony kicks off 2020 Olympics in Tokyo – Global News
The Olympic Games opening ceremony is typically a chance for competing countries and athletes to show off their pride and culture, but this year will be a little different.
Normally held in a stadium full of ecstatic fans, this year’s ceremony will have international athletes parade around a near-empty venue after it was announced fans would not be allowed to attend because of rising COVID-19 cases in Japan.
Athletes from around the world, including Canada, are taking part in the ceremony for the Summer Games, which will run until Aug. 8.
Canada has sent 370 athletes to the Olympics, the nation’s largest delegation since 1984.
Team Canada names flag-bearers for Tokyo Olympic Games
But only 30 to 40 athletes are marching into the Olympic Stadium, the Canadian Olympic Committee has previously said, saying athletes aren’t allowed into the Olympic Village until five days before they compete.
Many of them will be too close to the start of their competition to join flagbearers Miranda Ayim of the women’s basketball team and men’s rugby sevens co-captain Nathan Hirayama.
The ceremony’s theme is “United by Emotion,” as officials are aspiring to reaffirm the role of sport and the value of the Olympic Games, express gratitude and admiration for the efforts made over the past year, and also bring a sense of hope for the future, the Olympics website says.
Despite all the difficulties the International Olympic Committee has faced to stage the Games amid a global pandemic, president Thomas Bach previously said he believes the ceremonies will be a moment of “joy and relief.”
The event runs from 7 a.m. ET to 11 a.m. ET
You can follow along here.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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